Best of the 2007, Halfway: Albums

Photo by David Greenwald

Guys and gals, this has been a great year so far. I can’t emphasize that enough. I could make a top 20 and every album on it would be stellar, but that’ll have to wait till the end of the year. Forgive me if you’re familiar with all these folks already — it’s hard to deny the indie staples placement when they’re all delivering fantastic records.

Note: I’m not counting Elliott Smith’s New Moon for various reasons: He’s my favorite musician ever and anything by him is going to be an automatic no. 1 — so that’s no fun. Secondly, this is an album that should’ve come out in 1995. It’s not exactly a reissue, but for the purposes of this list I’m going to pretend it doesn’t exist. (But you should buy it if you haven’t! Album of the year!)


10. The Sea and Cake – Everybody

The Sea and Cake – “Crossing Line”: mp3

I’ve always liked the Sea and Cake, always enjoyed their bossa nova affections and connections to Jim O’Rourke and the Chicago scene. This is the first Sea and Cake album I’ve really loved. It still sounds like a Sea and Cake album, but it’s a great one. (Concert photos)

9. Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha

Andrew Bird – “Heretics”: mp3

This would be much higher if not for its sloppy, momentum-killing sequencing. But nevertheless, songs such as “Heretics” and “Simple X” are among his best and it’s more than refreshing to hear Bird finally embracing straight-up guitar rock.

8. Of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?

Of Montreal – “Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse”: mp3

Only Of Montreal’s Kevin Barnes would turn the depression of a seperation from his wife and living in fucking Norway with heavy metal bands into the best album of his band’s lengthy, glorious career. (Concert photos)

7. The Broken West – I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On

The Broken West – “So It Goes”: mp3

The more I listen to this, the more it sounds like a power-pop classic. I haven’t heard a band channel Big Star this well in years. Have you?

6. Loney, Dear – Loney, Noir

Loney, Dear – “I Am John”: mp3

I keep comparing this to Sufjan and maybe I’m the only one, but it’s amazing to me that there’s another guy who can play all these instruments (or fake them electronically) and record these indie-folk mini-symphonies in his room. Dude’s voice is a bit high and whiny, but that’s how I like it. Every single song on this album is beautiful. (Previous post)

Top five after the jump! [Continue Reading]

5. The Clientele – God Save The Clientele

The Clientele – “Bookshop Casanova”: mp3

The Clientele don’t just drip nostalgic lovelorn depression — they’re soaked through with it. And they play guitar solos, too. (Previous post, concert photos)

4. Iron & Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog

What’s great about this album is it’s completely alien and incomparable to The Creek Drank the Cradle, Iron & Wine’s debut and best album. This could be his best album, too; they’re so different that ranking one against the other is a difficult conundrum. So what if we rank this one against indie-folk in general? It comes out on top. More accessible than Animal Collective, more charismatic and song-oriented than Califone, weirder and more no-holds-barred than Lewis & Clarke, this is as good as progressive folk gets these days. And — hear that slide guitar? — he hasn’t forgetten where he came from, either, even if now he’s into tribal rhythms and backwards recordings. Perhaps most importantly, Beam is one of the best singers, period, and on this album he cuts loose more than ever before.

3. Wilco – Sky Blue Sky

What?! No experimenting? It’s just songs? That’s what I thought the first time I listened to my favorite band’s latest. Then I listened to it again. Nels Cline’s miraculous fretwork has gotten most of the buzz, but the album’s unsung hero is Pat Sansone, who — if his work with the Autumn Defense is any indication — is largely responsible for the ’70s soft-rock influence. Jeff Tweedy’s vocals continue to improve as he gets older, and I appreciate the honest, unguarded sentiment he offers on songs such as “Either Way” and “On and On and On,” both songs that should rank highly in the Wilco songbook.

2. The National – Boxer

The National – “Fake Empire”: mp3

This was the front-runner for quite some time. I’ve listened to this more than anything else released this year. It’s overwhelming and confident in a way that few albums are in a way that begs for repeated listens. You can tie a different adjective to each song: “Slow Show” is aching, “Ada” is exciting, “Fake Empire” is mysterious… and on and on. Alligator still has the edge for me, but this is another classic from a band that’ll be churning them out for years to come. (Concert photos, download the White Session)

1. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

Spoon – “The Underdog”: mp3

As I noted in a previous post, this is the most fun album Spoon’s ever made. The songs are bursting at the seams with cool production tricks (note the use of reverb on the backing vocals on “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb,” or on the guitar on “Eddie’s Ragga,” or on any song on the album, really) and a big, full sound that throws the band’s trademark curtness into a stereophonic whirl. All that and a bunch of great songs by one of America’s most consistently great rock bands. (Previous post)


Very honorable mentions:

New Buffalo – Somewhere, Anywhere.
Laura Veirs – Saltbreakers
St. Vincent – Marry Me
Hauschka – Room to Expand
Lewis & Clarke – Blasts of Holy Birth
Lucky Soul – The Great Unwanted
Boris – Rainbow
Bright Eyes – Cassadaga

And on and on…Keep an eye out for a best songs of ’07 list next week.


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